I remember all sorts of things, that’s the problem. They all lie like objects you wouldn’t want to touch, on the surface of a scummy canal. Take one up and you’ll find that only a bit of it is visible amongst all the other dirt. The rest lies below the surface, out of sight in the murk where nothing can live anyway. In some places the water has backed up and looks like old, thick skin, as if some elephant met his end there and this is all that remains of him. It’s orange from the bacteria that feed off it. On cold nights, you can see the mist rising. Not like normal calm hovering but like it’s being spat out from underneath.

Take this here for example. A fragment of something. Could be an old photograph printed on glass. Is that someone’s eye looking at us now, looking across some medium I cannot name. Time maybe, whatever that really is. Careful now, it’s sharp. One day, they will come and clean the canal, drag it all into dirty, rusting barges and, since no one is going to take on the job of sorting that lot, they’ll bury it. In a licensed hole somewhere. Dump it and then push the earth back on top with a heavy machine that breathes out thick, black smoke when it gathers itself to move. The water will be clean then, free of history and ready for the holidaymakers’ boats.

Jim Conwell (UK)

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